Things worse since Margaret River fires: Mick Murray

Mick Murray has slammed the state government for cuts to its emergency services in the wake of the Yarloop fires. Picture by Richard Polden.
Mick Murray has slammed the state government for cuts to its emergency services in the wake of the Yarloop fires. Picture by Richard Polden.

SOUTH West Shadow Minister Mick Murray has said the disastrous Margaret River fires of 2011, which saw a prescribed burn rage out of control, should have prompted the state government to be better prepared for the inferno that gutted the town of Yarloop earlier this month.

Mr Murray slammed the state government for previous funding cuts to the state’s emergency services.

“Some of state’s most respected bushfire experts have come out in recent days and said things have got worse since the Margaret River fires and the Keelty report,” he said. 

“With Yarloop itself I am not sure high fuel loads were the problem, but that does not absolve the government of responsibility for its cuts to emergency services funding and changes to how the Emergency Services Levy is spent.”

“Considerable work has been undertaken in recent years to reduce the risk and impact of bushfires, but major challenges remain as this fire has demonstrated,”

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis

The Shadow Minister outlined the government’s responsibility to protect the public.

“After the Margaret River fires – now more than four years ago – the public has a right to feel better protected than it did then, and that simply is not the case,” he said.

On Wednesday, January 20, Premier Colin Barnett announced a full inquiry into the Yarloop fires would be carried out by interstate country fire expert Euan Ferguson.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said the inquiry would consider how lessons learned from previous reports and incidents had been applied by relevant authorities.

“Considerable work has been undertaken in recent years to reduce the risk and impact of bushfires, but major challenges remain as this fire has demonstrated,” he said.

“Mr Ferguson will provide the Government with recommendations on further reforms to better protect people and property from bushfires. His report will be made public.”

In 2011, a prescribed burn by the Department of Environment and Conservation escalated out of control causing widespread devastation across the Margaret River region.

An independent report into the bushfire headed by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty later found the department made a series of mistakes and omissions when carrying out the burn.

“Some of state’s most respected bushfire experts have come out in recent days and said things have got worse since the Margaret River fires and the Keelty report,”

South West Shadow Minister Mick Murray

DEC added fuel to the burn on November 21 and 22 despite extreme weather forecast for November 23, the day the fire escaped containment lines.

In August last year a report released by Auditor General Colin Murphy outlined high fuel loads across the state as a bushfire concern.

Mr Barnett said the government was committed to learning as much as possible about the causes of, and response to, the recent fire that claimed two lives and devastated Yarloop.

“Legitimate questions have been asked about the response to this fire and, in particular, the circumstances of the devastation of Yarloop and the tragic loss of two lives,” Mr Barnett said.

“This review will get to the bottom of these matters and will provide the Government and the public with answers and recommendations for improvement.”

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